Where warm Gulf Stream currents and Arctic pack ice collide, a wild archipelago features deep fjords, rugged mountains, vast glaciers and polar desert. We visit Spitsbergen as perpetual soft summer light bathes the land, and stretch our legs across tundra alive with green moss and tiny flowers of brilliant hue. Zodiacs carry us to noisy cliffs of breeding birds, while the seas are tumbled by whales, bearded seals and walrus. We cruise the fjords and coast keeping watch for the mightiest inhabitant of all – the polar bear. Kayaking and scuba diving add a special dimension. Day 1 Late afternoon sees us warmly welcomed on board Polar Pioneer, settling in and enjoying our departure under the Midnight Sun. Days 2–3 Early morning reveals the spectacular aqua-blue ice cliffs of the 14th July Glacier or perhaps the Waggonway Glacier in Magdalenefjorden. Our itinerary depends on weather, snow and ice conditions, and the presence of wildlife. Thanks to the nutrient-rich Gulf Stream, temperatures on the rugged west coast are relatively mild, ideal for the many Atlantic puffins and thick-billed murres that fill the cliffs. We look for bearded seals, with their precious curling whiskers. Up Kingsfjorden we may visit Ny Ålesund, a mining town turned polar research centre and at Amsterdamoya, we hike the tundra, alert for reindeer and Arctic fox. We explore remains of a 350-year-old Dutch whaling settlement and learn of an ill-fated ballooning attempt over the North Pole. Days 4–6 Beluga whales, pack ice and maybe even polar bears feature as we round Spitsbergen’s northwest coast into the Arctic Ocean and turn south into Woodfjorden. We search for ringed, bearded and harp seals and ashore, trappers’s huts, reindeer and Arctic fox. In Leifdefjorden, breeding eider ducks, terns, skuas, glaucous gulls and black-legged kittiwakes, attract polar bears with cubs. Offshore, walrus feed on clams or haul out on beaches, especially on Moffen Island, a walrus sanctuary. With 24-hour daylight, there’s plenty of time to admire many of the tundra’s 164 species of flowering plants, including purple saxifrage, exquisite yellow spider plants and Svalbard poppies. If ice conditions allow, we attempt to cross latitude 80° North – a cause for celebration! Days 7–8 Welcome to the wild side! Frigid Arctic currents sweep around Spitsbergen’s northeast corner, lowering air and sea temperatures, and creating a landscape eroded by severe frost. Even in summer, pack ice could bar our way. We attempt to pass through narrow Hinlopen Strait, between Spitsbergen and austere, ice-capped Nordaustlandet, Our Russian crew and expedition staff use their considerable expertise to reach the region’s highlights. We Zodiac cruise beneath Alkefjellt, sheer basalt cliffs rising more than 250 metres, literally buzzing with some 200,000 nests of Brunnich’s guillemots, possibly with Arctic fox scavenging below. On Torrellneset, we could well approach dozens of sleeping walrus. A true polar desert, the east coast offers walks among stunted glaciers, exposed fossil fields, and tundra, where we watch for Arctic fox, eider ducks and the elusive Svalbard ptarmigan. Sailing between Barentsøya and Edgeøya, we cross polar bear migration routes and may visit Sundeneset, a fertile plain covered in green mosses and delicate flowers, including the yellow marsh saxifrage. Days 9–10 This is true expedition cruising, where plans are dictated by ice conditions and our desire to explore. If pack ice allows, we round South Cape, returning to the world of open water and rugged coastal mountains, and sail north toward Hornsund and Bellsund, deep fjords with remarkable glaciers and wildlife. If ice stops us on the east side, we adjust our itinerary, backtrack and delve deeper into the wonders of Spitsbergen’s north and west coasts, including a visit to colonies where hundreds of thousands of little auks nest, darkening the sky as they commute to their fishing grounds. Day 11 A midnight cruise of Isfjorden returns us to Longyearbyen, the end of our spectacular voyage and a transfer to the airport for your onward flight. Please Note: This itinerary is at the mercy of weather conditions and not all landings are guaranteed. Our itineraries are flexible and will change voyage to voyage, allowing the best chance to make the most of surprising wildlife displays and unexpected opportunities.
Polar Pioneer is a small and sturdy expedition ship and a regular in polar waters. Built in Finland in 1985 as an ice- strengthened research vessel, she was refurbished in 2001 to provide a comfortable range of triple, twin and suite cabin options for a maximum of 54 expeditioners. Her excellent reputation for polar expedition cruising is due to her strength, maneuverability and size, allowing her to access areas where larger vessels simply can’t reach.
|Kayaking Option||Kayaking Kayaking in the far-flung corners of the world is an experience guaranteed to refresh your soul. Led by experienced guides, paddling in small groups allows us the opportunity for intimate access to beautiful coastlines in some of the world's most remote destinations.||US$785|